In Greg Erickson’s lab at Florida State University, crocodiles and alligators rule. Skeletal snouts and toothy grins adorn window ledges and tables — all donated specimens that are scrutinized by researchers and students alike.
Lately, Erickson, a Florida State biology professor, and his colleagues have been pondering a particularly painful-sounding question: How hard do alligators and crocodiles bite?
The answer is a bite force value of 3,700 pounds for a 17-foot saltwater crocodile (as well as tooth pressures of 350,000 pounds per square inch). That’s the highest bite force ever recorded — beating a 2,980-pound value for a 13-foot wild American alligator Erickson’s lab measured in 2005. They estimate that the largest extinct crocodilians, 35- to 40-foot animals, bit at forces as high as 23,100 pounds.
Erickson, along with several colleagues, including Florida State biology professors Scott Steppan and Brian Inouye, and graduate student Paul Gignac, reported their findings in the journal PLoS One.
Funded by the National Geographic Society and the FSU College of Arts and Sciences, their study looks at the bite force and tooth pressure of every single species of crocodilian. It took more than a decade to complete and required a wily team of croc handlers and statisticians, as well as an army of undergraduate and graduate students. Erickson describes crocodilian bite-force testing as being a bit like dragon slaying by committee.
“Our work required a team effort,” he said.
CONTINUED at Science Daily.